Reliable monitoring of Parkinson’s at home with a smartwatch

What is striking about the research, published in NPJ Digital Medicine, is that measurements taken with a smartwatch in the home situation often show a different picture than the measurements in the hospital. This is partly because people with Parkinson’s are stressed in the hospital, which often makes a number of symptoms such as trembling worse. Objectively At home measuring with a smartwatch is therefore an important development to get a better view of Parkinson’s. Radboudumc has been striving for a in person possible care for Parkinson’s patients and this smart watch can help with that.

Measuring objectively at home

‘We have known for more than 200 years that it is not possible to reliably map the severity of Parkinson’s disease during a hospital assessment,’ says Bas Bloem, professor of Neurology at Radboudumc. ‘A hospital visit is often experienced as a stressful event. This makes some symptoms, such as trembling, worse, but walking often improves. This is not a good reflection of how things are going at home. In addition, it is labour-intensive: patients have to travel to the hospital and it takes a lot of manpower from doctors and scientists. You would prefer to measure objectively in your own living environment much more often.’

Smartwatch with motion sensors

The study participants wore the Verily Study Watch, a multi-sensor research watch, for two to three years. Their motivation was great, says researcher Luc Evers of Radboudumc. ‘Even after years of use, people wear the smartwatch on average for 21 hours a day, which gives us a very complete picture of how the disease progresses at home. With the help of the motion sensors we can map important Parkinson’s complaints such as changes in the gait pattern and tremors. But thanks to other sensors, we can also look at lesser-known – but certainly no less important – non-motor complaints. Think, for example, of sleeping problems, changes in the regulation of the heart rate and the effects of stress.’

World’s largest Parkinson’s study with wearable sensor

Previous studies also looked at the added value of a smartwatch, but this new Parkinson’s tailor-made study contains several new elements. It is the largest Parkinson’s study on a wearable sensor worldwide and people are followed for much longer than in previous studies. Data is continuously collected in the background. In addition, the participants perform various tests at specific times. With the smart watch, the core symptoms and the effects of medication on the disease could be accurately measured in the home situation. Evers: ‘All participants had also performed the same tests once in the hospital. The results of that one measurement often deviated from the weekly measurements in their home situation. We are convinced that results in the home situation provide a much more complete and accurate picture of the severity of Parkinson’s disease. The next step is to see if the smartwatch can be used to measure disease progression over a longer period of time.’

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